‘Gifted, generous and selfless’ teenager dies in South African sea tragedy

Alice Barnett
Alice Barnett

A teenage charity volunteer has drowned after being swept out to sea in South Africa.

Alice Barnett, 19, who lived in Tring and attended Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School in Aylesbury, was volunteering for a charity in the Woody Cape area of Port Elizabeth when the tragedy happened on Thursday.

Alice Barnett PNL-140812-144724001

Alice Barnett PNL-140812-144724001

Her friend also lost her life in the tragedy.

It is believed that family members have flown out to South Africa.

The Foreign Office confirmed that both families were receiving consular assistance.

Her father Pete Gallagher said on Twitter that there are ‘no words to say how devastated we are to have lost our beloved angel Alice’.

School headmaster Stephen Box also shared his condolences with Alice’s family and friends.

He said: “Our whole school community has been hurting since we heard the devastating news that Alice lost her life whilst serving others overseas.

“I often smile when I hear headteachers talking about students who had experienced major tragedies. The students are always described as wonderful, good natured and talented - they have never been any trouble to anybody. I often wonder how true those statements are.

“In Alice’s case I know that she really was a lovely person.

“She was very talented in all the arts subjects - she studied art, drama and English in our sixth form.

“Not only was she very gifted herself she was always generous and selfless in sharing her gifts. Many of our younger students have had the privilege of being helped by her at lunchtimes in the art room or the drama studio.

“Her most recent appearance on our stage was as Miss Hannigan from the show Annie.

“Very fittingly she worked with a group of young students to rehearse and perform that extract.

“She had just finished working on a project in a township in South Africa - teaching special needs children and helping to educate young people about drugs, alcohol and AIDS. This followed a spell working in a school in Cambodia.

“Some teachers have said that if they were allowed to have a favourite student then their choice would have been Alice. Her family are in the thoughts and prayers of all of us.”

The incident happened at around 8pm, and search and rescue volunteers were having dinner when they heard cries for help coming from the beach.

They found five British nationals had gone for a swim but were caught in rip-currents and swept out to sea.

The three survivors, two males and a female, showed signs of near drowning symptoms and were treated by the team’s medics before being transported to hospital for observation for secondary drowning.